What is WWF - Pakistan doing?
In 2005, WWF-Pakistan launched a captive breeding programme at Changa Manga forest, 80km southwest of Lahore, aiming to secure a viable population of the white-backed vulture Gyps bengalensis. It is a regional priority species for the Global Programme Framework of WWF Network. Currently there are 18 White-backed vultures in the facility. One of the project’s biggest achievements has been lobbying with the government in order to ban the drugs containing diclofenac sodium in September 2006. The Gyps Vulture Restoration Facility is the only ex-situ project in Pakistan dedicated to fight the threats faced by the White-backed vultures. WWF-Pakistan is also a member of the Vulture Specialist Group of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission.
WWF-Pakistan also took the “Vulture Safe Zone Project” initiative in 2012 aiming to do in-situ conservation of the white-backed vulture in Pakistan by establishing an area of 100km as Vulture Safe Zone at Nagar Parkar, Sindh. The objectives include enhancing the availability and usage of the alternate drug Meloxicam through lobbying with pharmaceutical companies, veterinarians and relevant government departments. This area is the last stronghold of the white-backed and long-billed vulture’s populations left in the wild in Pakistan. This project is in line with the overall objective of the international consortium under the name of ‘Saving Asia's Vultures from Extinction’ (SAVE). WWF-Pakistan is also on board of SAVE.
i. Gyps Vulture Crisis Project (GVCP)This project was initiated in 2000 by The Peregrine Fund and Ornithological Society of Pakistan and Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan to collect the field data regarding Gyps Vulture decline between 2000-2003, Pakistan showed a 50% annual decrease in the white-backed vulture Gyps bengalensis. Three colonies vanished completely in this period with populations of 421, 445 and 758 in Taunsa, Toawala and Changa Manga respectively.
ii. Gyps Vulture Restoration Project (GVRP)The Gyps Vulture Restoration Project (GVRP) focuses on the conservation of the white-backed vulture, which is categorized as a critically endangered species by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). It is a regional priority species for the Global Programme Framework of WWF Network. One of the project’s biggest successes has been lobbying with the government in order to ban the drug. It was effectively banned in September, 2006 by the National Assembly’s Standing Committee of Environment.
The Vulture Conservation CentreThe project has developed extensive techniques to save the vulture population. WWF-Pakistan established a “Vulture Conservation Centre” in the Changa Manga Forest, 80 km southwest of Lahore. The facility’s main objective is to retain the current population along with a captive breeding program in order to increase the population.
The purpose built aviary has been built with The Hawk Conservancy Trust as a technical partner on land provided by The Punjab Wildlife and Parks Department, Government of Pakistan. The Environment Agency in Abu Dhabi provided the seed funding necessary for the construction and whereas The Hawk Conservancy Trust (HCT) continues to act as the main donor for the running of the facility since 2007. WWF – US carried out a survey in conjunction with WWF – Pakistan and supported the effective lobbying against the use and distribution of Diclofenac Sodium by veterinarian and pharmaceutical companies.
Breeding ProgramThe aviary can house up to 30 birds. The maximum number of birds the facility has seen is 22 birds at one time. The facility is made up of the main aviary along with four small breeding aviaries. The sex of a vulture cannot be determined by looking at the birds, therefore it is determined genetically. The birds are then ring tagged for identification. This is very important to monitor their behaviour. The birds are also implanted with microchips imbedded in the skin for identification purposes.Chicks are kept away from the larger birds in the smaller aviaries until they are ready to be released into the larger aviary with the rest of the birds. The birds are fed a healthy diet of donkeys and goats. The project tries to feed the birds a varied diet. The goats are organically reared on the project site. Once breeding reaches a level where the species can self sustain a safe population, the birds will be released into the wild.
iii. Vulture Safe Zone Project (VSZP)The biggest success of any species conservation work is ensuring a sustainable population in the wild. WWF-Pakistan has established a Vulture Safe Zone under the Vulture Safe Zone Project at Nagar Parkar area in Sindh in the year 2012. This area is home to the largest remaining population of the white-backed vultures in Pakistan.
The Vulture Safe Zone is an area of 100 km in diameter in order to focus and prioritize the White backed vulture conservation in Pakistan. Within this area the use of Diclofenac Sodium is being eradicated through large-scale awareness raising to the local communities including farmers and veterinarians.
Communities are being educated to properly dispose of the carcass treated with NSAIDs to avoid Gyps vultures from consuming them. The alternative vulture safe drug ‘Meloxicam’ is promoted along with free livestock de-worming camps in the priority villages around the Gyps vulture’s colonies in Nagar Parker. Parker Foundation (a local Community Based Organization) has been registered at Nagar Parkar to support the project activities. The Gyps vulture’s populations are being monitored every year in the breeding season.
iv. Save Asia's Vultures from Extinction (SAVE)As a part of a consolidated South Asian regional effort to conserve the Gyps species of vultures, WWF-Pakistan is carrying out concentrated efforts to conserve the white-backed vulture population in the country. The regional effort is under the consortium by the name of Save Asians Vultures from Extinction (SAVE) exists to coordinate all conservation efforts by these countries.
- On 1st October 2015, a deworming session was organized at the Gyps Vulture Restoration Centre, Changa Manga.
- A livestock assessment survey was conducted in the villages around Gyps Vulture colonies in Nagarparkar, to improve livestock management practices and to reduce mortality and support livelihoods .
- A session was organized for the students, to show the vulture documentary along the presentation highlighting the threats to vultures species in the Nagarparkar area.
Don’t forget to spread the word. The more people understand what simple steps can be taken to save white-backed vultures, the more success we will have. So go on, get your friends, family and colleagues to help too.
The good news is that we can save white-backed vltures.
You can adopt a vulture for the period of 6 months or 1 year.